Skip to main content
Publish date:

SI’s Preseason Women’s College Basketball Top 25 for 2021–22

Familiar faces lead the way, but don't overlook the upstart programs hoping to continue to make waves.

It's been seven months since the confetti fell on Stanford, the 2020–21 women's national title winner, and a new season is about to get underway. The Cardinal remain a staunch threat, and they'll be joined by familiar faces like South Carolina, Connecticut and Baylor. Will one of the sport's powerhouses take home the championship again, or will programs on the rise—like Iowa, Michigan or Indiana—follow Arizona's lead and crash the party?

Read on for Sports Illustrated's preseason top 25 for the 2021–22 season, which kicks off on Nov. 9.

UConn's Olivia Nelson-Ododa slaps hands before a game

1. UConn

To the chip on their shoulder after a Final Four loss to Arizona, the Huskies added No. 1 recruit Azzi Fudd, 5' 11" shooting guard. She joins Naismith Trophy winner Paige Bueckers, dynamic scorer Christyn Williams and defensive force Olivia Nelson-Ododa.

2. South Carolina

The Final Four core—led by guard Zia Cooke and 6' 5" post Aliyah Boston—gets a boost from the country’s top recruiting class. In addition, 6' 7" Kamilla Cardoso, who was the ACC’s Freshman of the Year and co–Defender of the Year last season at Syracuse, joins via the transfer portal.

3. Stanford

The reigning champ brings back a versatile roster, led by do-it-all guard Haley Jones. Former five-star recruit Jana Van Gytenbeek, a 5' 7" playmaker, will help make up for the absence of Kiana Williams. The Cardinal may not have one flashy strength, but they have almost no weaknesses, either.

4. Maryland

The country’s top offense last season, led by backcourt juniors Ashley Owusu (17.9 ppg) and Diamond Miller (17.3), will be even stronger as its core rotation returns. But can the Terps avoid a second straight Sweet 16 upset?

5. Louisville

The loss of guard Dana Evans will be lessened by two transfers: 6' 1" Emily Engstler averaged 9.1 boards mostly off the Syracuse bench last season, and 5' 7" Chelsie Hall scored 1,039 points in four years at Vanderbilt.

6. Baylor

The Bears are without three of their top playmakers as well as coach Kim Mulkey,
who left for LSU. Her replacement, former Atlanta Dream coach Nicki Collen, will build around Wade Trophy winner NaLyssa Smith.

7. NC State

The nucleus that propelled the Wolfpack to back-to-back ACC championships returns, including 6' 5" leading scorer Elissa Cunane (16.3 ppg) and the conference co–Sixth Player of the Year, 6' 2" Jada Boyd.

8. Indiana

The Hoosiers hope to build on their best season ever (21–6), highlighted by a defeat of a No. 1 seed, NC State, in the NCAA tournament. All–Big Ten selections Mackenzie Holmes and Grace Berger anchor the offense.

9. Oregon

In redshirt juniors 6' 5" Nyara Sabally (7.3 rpg) and 6' 7" Sedona Prince, the Ducks have one of the nation’s most feared frontcourt duos. Both bigs will benefit from USC transfer and All–Pac 12 point guard Endyia Rogers.

10. Michigan

As a junior, All-American power forward Naz Hillmon topped Rudy Tomjanovich’s school record with 50 points in a game and lifted the Wolverines to their first Sweet 16 berth. Will she lift the Naismith Trophy this season?

11. Iowa

Caitlin Clark led the country in scoring in 2020–21, pouring in 26.6 points per game. She was also third in assists with 7.1 and, oh, yeah, she was just a freshman. An improved defense could yield a Big Ten championship.

12. Iowa State

Led by top scorer Ashley Joens (24.2 ppg), a 6-foot junior, the Cyclones have continuity and emerging talent. They also have enough quality shooters—36.4% accuracy on threes last season—to keep up constant pressure.

SI Recommends

13. Kentucky

Senior Rhyne Howard might be the best player in the SEC. The 6' 2" guard led the team last year in points (20.7 per game), rebounds (7.3) and assists (3.8). But the departure of three starters—without much of a recruiting class to replace them—creates question marks.

14. Oregon State

The Beavers will have a different look without playmakers Aleah Goodman and Sasha Goforth. But guards Talia von Oelhoffen and Greta Kampschroeder, a five-star freshman, will have the team fit to compete.

15. West Virginia

Kysre Gondrezick is now in the WNBA, but transfers will allow the Mountaineers, who were second in the Big 12 last season, to maintain a balanced attack. Forward Esmery Martinez averaged a double double as a sophomore.

16. Ohio State

There’s been transfer churn in Columbus: Out are Dorka Juhász (UConn) and Aaliyah Patty (Texas A&M), and in is 5' 11" Taylor Mikesell, who was the 2019 Big Ten Freshman of the Year at Maryland before moving to Oregon.

17. Florida State

Behind All-ACC guard Morgan Jones, the Seminoles will try to find consistency after an up-and-down year frequently disrupted by COVID-19. A strong recruiting class—ranked No. 13 by ESPN—should help.

18. South Florida

After winning their first AAC regular-season and tournament titles, the Bulls have their starting lineup back, including (thanks to the COVID-19 waiver) forward Bethy Mununga.

19. Georgia Tech

Five starters return from last year’s Sweet 16 team—a great sign for a program coming off back-to-back seasons with double-digit ACC victories for the first time. Before coach Nell Fortner arrived, the Yellow Jackets had losing conference records for five straight years.

20. Tennessee

Despite losing leader Rennia Davis, the Vols are poised to continue their upward trajectory as coach Kellie Harper enters Year 3 thanks in part to the addition of Sun Belt Player of the Year Alexus Dye.

21. UCLA

The Bruins will have to fill the gap left by WNBA Rookie of the Year Michaela Onyenwere’s departure after last season’s second-round exit. UCLA welcomes nine newcomers, while Charisma Osborne leads the way as one of the Pac-12's top offensive threats.

22. Arizona

After falling to Stanford in a thrilling national championship game, the Wildcats enter the new season with renewed energy and a deep roster. Senior forward Cate Reese is expected to be at the forefront with star Aari McDonald now in the WNBA.

23. Texas A&M

The Aggies have experience on their side coming off a program-best regular-season winning percentage (89.3%) and fifth SEC regular-season championship. Eight players return to Gary Blair’s squad—including Kayla Wells, Jordan Nixon and Destiny Pitts—in the longtime coach’s final season before retirement.

24. Virginia Tech

With all five starters returning, the Hokies have the opportunity to build on the program’s first NCAA tournament appearance in 15 years. Fifth-year star guard Aisha Sheppard and junior center Elizabeth Kitley could be a lethal tandem in a strong ACC field.

25. Texas

The Longhorns will have to follow up their run to the Elite Eight without No. 1 WNBA pick Charli Collier. Both veteran and incoming talent are expected to impress, including senior ​​Joanne Allen-Taylor and preseason Big 12 Freshman of the Year Aaliyah Moore.  

More College Basketball Coverage:

• Top Candidates for Women's National Player of Year
64 Reasons to Be Excited for the CBB Season
• Women’s College Basketball Isn’t Turning Back